The Detroit Red Wings suffered a big blow when Henrik Zetterberg announced he would hang up his skates at the start of the season due to a lingering back injury. Zetterberg isn’t the player he once was, but he was still arguably the best playmaker on the team last season. The former captain paced the team in offensive zone possession time, offensive zone passes and passes to the slot, so replacing his performance was bound to be a tall task.
So far, Dylan Larkin has done an admirable job, stepping up and pacing the team in most playmaking metrics. Unfortunately, he seems to be the only player who can consistently generate offense for the Wings. A quick look at the box score might have you think that Gustav Nyquist has been as good, if not better than Larkin after collecting six assists in nine games. After a deeper look, you will quickly realize that five of his six assists were secondary helpers. His only primary assist ironically came on a Larkin goal, which was more because of the second effort by Larkin than the pass itself.
If we look deeper into the numbers, Larkin’s performance blows Nyquist’s out of the water.
All of Larkin’s numbers in that graphic are team-highs, by the way. Even though he only has three assists so far, each of them was a primary assist. He’s setting teammates up in dangerous areas at an incredible rate – he just doesn’t have the same caliber of finishers other teams have. He also paces the team in goals, for good measure. And if you think those numbers are only impressive because of the lackluster comparables on the Red Wings, think again. He ranks 19th in possession driving plays and 5th in passes to the slot league-wide. If he continues to create so many good chances for himself and his teammates, the points should continue to roll in and he could establish himself as one of the best young players in the league once the supporting cast around him gets better (Filip Zadina and Larkin on the same line, anyone?).